Though the next school year is more than eight months away, school touring season is in full swing for parents who plan to enroll their children in kindergarten next year.
The Scottsdale Unified School District has already announced a slate of open houses across at all of the district's elementary schools for families interested in sending their preschoolers to SUSD.
Children who will be 5 by Sept. 1, 2020, qualify for kindergarten enrollment, according to the district.
The first slate of tours took place last week but the district already has two future sessions planned in 2020 in mid-to-late January and the beginning of March.
Cochise Elementary Principal Sheila Miller said the amount of parents requesting tours has increased in recent years.
“Between last year and this year, tours have increased a lot,” Miller said.
Miller said some can be attributed to open enrollment.
Arizona’s public school open enrollment law allows families to apply for admission at any public school, regardless of their residential address, based on available capacity at the school.
Most schools in SUSD have excess capacity, according to recent presentations by district administration to the governing board.
However, capacity is not spread evenly across all grade levels.
Miller said roughly one-third of her school’s students come from open enrollment.
Scottsdale parent Alex de Soler attended a recent Cochise Elementary open house and said his family planned to tour three or four schools in search of the right fit for his daughter Alana.
For his daughter, de Soler said the educational component is important but they were also looking for a program “that’s not so rigid and where they’re learning other things like social interactions.”
The open houses give families a chance to meet with school leadership and kindergarten teachers and find out more about the typical school day and what their child can expect during the transition to kindergarten.
Schools will also cover the variety of ways in which teachers and parents stay in touch, including through apps, email and school newsletters.
Typical open houses begin with a presentation by principals or assistant principals and teachers answering common questions about a school’s curriculum, parent volunteer opportunities and special activities unique to a specific school.
For instance, at a recent open house at Cochise Elementary School, kindergarten teachers Maria Fossler and Janet Holmes told parents and children about special days on campus, including pajama day and the 100th day of school celebration – in which students are encouraged to try on their finest wigs and cardigan sweaters to dress as a centenarian for a day.
The presentations also include discussions of special classes like music, physical education and art, and how to prepare new students for kindergarten.
Holmes, the Cochise teacher, said she encouraged parents to practice rhyming words with children to prepare them for learning to read.
The open houses also include a tour of the schools to show teachers typical classrooms, playgrounds, special classes and other school facilities.
In addition to the open houses publicized by the district, most schools host more frequent tours.
Miller, the Cochise principal, said her school hosts tours every Wednesday and parents can also call the office to schedule a tour to fit their schedule.